Our focus for today’s senior assisted living and memory blog post is for you, the friends and relatives of our cherished memory care residents here at The Birches at Villa Rica Assisted Living and Memory Care.
If you are hesitant to visit a friend or relative with significant memory care issues because you’re intimidated about what to say or how to act, listen, you are more the norm than the exception. We routinely address these concerns with our visitors here and thought to put the recurring suggestions down on paper as food-for-thought prior to your visit. If you read no further than this paragraph, our advice is simply walk in and take earned reward for prioritizing time for those you love.
Some things will come easy and naturally. Possibly, things could get uncomfortable. Whatever happens, consider the following in advance:
Burry the urge to correct
Understand that you likely will not be able to have the same kind of conversations with the person as you did in the past. If they forget something you just told them, avoid correcting them or saying things like, “We talked about that just a few minutes ago. Don’t you remember?” Chances are they genuinely don’t.
A better response is to acknowledge what they’ve said and then casually change the topic. Let go of the desire to correct them. It’s not going to help them, and it’s likely only going to frustrate you. The sooner you recognize that expecting them to behave “normally” is an unproductive exercise, the more likely you’ll have a successful visit.
Realize that fibbing is okay
OK, if you disagree with this outright, we totally get it. But these are the rare circumstances where, in our opinion, that it’s perfectly okay not to tell the truth, particularly when the truth is destined to be upsetting. It’s best to say things that comfort rather than distress the person, even if it means telling little white lies.
A common question you might be asked relates to when their deceased spouse is “coming home”. Expect hard questions like that in advance and develop a philosophy about how you will react. “He went out for lunch. I’m not sure when he’ll be back”. Now your friend is picturing her husband at a restaurant and not in a casket. Isn’t the former a more productive and loving approach?
Consider visiting early in the day
People with dementia are often at their best from mid-morning to early or mid-afternoon. After that, they may be prone to restlessness and confusion, a phenomenon known as sundowning. Not everyone follows the same pattern, though. Keep in mind that most individuals with dementia tend to get tired later in the day, so dropping in for supper may not be the best option.
Use objects and activities
If your experience confirms that sitting and talking is difficult, spend time doing an activity together when you visit. Bring a book, pictures, or music you know that she enjoyed once upon a time. All of these things can be triggers for happy and rewarding experience.
Never give up
If your visit doesn’t go well, don’t be discouraged. Just because the person gets agitated or restless does not mean the visit is counterproductive. Take it as a learning lesson regarding what not to say or do. Simultaneously, take note of what words and behaviors triggered positivity. Over time, the positive and rewarding minutes will far outpace the uncomfortable minutes.
Here at The Birches at Villa Rica Assisted Living and Memory Care, we provide support for people with dementia and their families every day. We embrace the days (for us, always good) with our residents. Like you, we take notes, we learn, and our memory care residents’ days get consistently better. Even if they don’t recognize it.